EILEEN TABIOS Engages
Bad Baby by Abigail Welhouse
(dancing girl press, Chicago, 2015)
There’s such a lovely enthusiasm throughout Abigail Welhouse’s chap, Bad Baby. It begins with the first and title poem that exuberantly takes on a tyrannical baby’s persona. How’s this for a first line—where the tyrant is the only one howling but you end up smiling because … well, it’s just a “bad baby”!
I will kick you in the eyes and laugh.
By the time we get to the poem’s last stanza, we’re mostly empathetic—at least “we” who have experienced the tyranny of rug rats!
That’s not a rattle. It’s my scepter.
You will obey me or else
I will make a noise
you will never forget.
Many of the poems please for being raucous, buoyant, and witty. And Welhouse’s wit is elevated by keen powers of observation. For instance, in the poem “UNTITLED ART HEIST,” there’s this couplet
Next you’ll return for “The Scream.”
The face your mother always said would stick.
That’s right. Somehow, I’ve lost memories of some ex-beloved faces but can never forget that screaming face by Munch. Until Welhouse’s poem, though, I’d not considered the implication of the one unforgettable face being THIS.
Oh well, c’est la vie…!
Oh well, c’est la vie…!
Also scaffolding the poems is a lurking intelligence. For example, the last stanza of “Q&A”
Question: Are you a siren or a sailor?
Answer: I sing to myself, then die.
shows the falsity of the binary of siren versus sailor. To wit, perhaps it’s more true that we’re all both siren and sailor.
Welhouse’s poems manifest, as she puts it in the poem "NETTING", “these things not truer than what I say back”—
I am always being told to calm down. I am always being told to calm down by men. I am always being told things, but these things are not truer than what I say back.
Another example of such speaking truth would be this sage advice from “New Rituals”:
Every day, touch a living thing that isn’t human.
Every year, touch the ocean.
I have faith that if we followed that advice, life would become, among other things, more exuberant—as exuberant as many of the poems in Bad Baby. Recommended.
Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor (the exception would be books that focus on other poets as well). She is pleased, though, to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her work. I FORGOT LIGHT BURNS received a review by Zvi A. Sesling at Boston Area Small Press & Poetry Scene; by Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer Grady Harp over HERE; and by Allen Bramhall in Tributary. Her experimental biography AGAINST MISANTHROPY: A LIFE IN POETRY received a review by Tom Hibbard in The Halo-Halo Review, Allen Bramhall in Mandala Web and Chris Mansel in The Daily Art Source. SUN STIGMATA also received a review by Edric Mesmer at Yellow Field. Recent releases are the e-chap DUENDE IN THE ALLEYS as well as INVENT(ST)ORY which is her second “Selected Poems" project; while her first Selected THE THORN ROSARY was focused on the prose poem form, INVEN(ST)ORY focuses on the list or catalog poem form. A key poem in INVENT(ST)ORY was reviewed by John Bloomberg-Rissman in The Halo-Halo Review, and the book itself was reviewed by Chris Mansel in The Daily Art Source and Allen Bramhall in Mandala Web. More information at http://eileenrtabios.com